AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar – In an open gravel area, airmen with the 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, assemble a four pound bird-like unmanned aircraft system and prepare it for flight over the skies of Al Udeid Air Base, July 3.
The RQ-11B Raven, that is prepared for flight, is a small, hand-launched aircraft that is powered by a small motor and designed to fall apart during the landing process as a safety measure. It has a cruising speed of over 26 miles per hour and can fly nearly 90 minutes.
“It gives us an eye on the perimeter,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Helen Daniel, a Raven B operator with the 379th ESFS. “Patrolling every signal stop on the perimeter is a challenge. Real time images and video of what is going on provides additional support to base defense operations.”
“[Similar to] any normal manned aircraft, the unmanned Raven B has an extensive pre-flight prior to launching,” said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Adams, non-commission officer in charge of Raven B operations with the 379th ESFS. “We ensure all equipment is working properly within safe limitations and show no noticeable malfunctions in order to have a successful mission.”
Before launch, Raven B operators go through a series of tasks to ensure the Raven B is ready for takeoff. The mission of the Raven B team is to patrol the base’s perimeter and be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Not every Security Force Squadron in the U.S. Air Force receives this mission. As Raven B operators, the team had to go through a two week training course.
According to Daniel, after passing all the requirements at the Raven B operator course, they have to maintain certain requirements in order to stay mission ready within the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility. These requirements include performing a number of flying missions per month, live or simulated, and maintaining flight readiness.
For a lot of Security Forces members, this program flies under the radar.
“Many Security Force personnel in fact don’t know the Raven B program is in existence,” said Senior Airman Luis Sandoval, a Raven B operator with the 379th ESFS. “I encourage everyone to explore this career field and ask questions to see what other jobs are out there.”